Archive for the ‘1.3 Instructional Strategies’ Category

Spreadsheet and database software might easily be overlooked as a valuable learning tool in education.  In order to meet the accountability regulations, administrators may quickly provide teachers with access to software for student information, test scores, grade books, student performance data, etc.  Spreadsheets and database programs are beneficial to teachers; however, it is certainly essential that the students be trained to properly use these applications for learning, problem-solving opportunities and the ability to meet today’s technology standards.  For students to achieve success using these technical tools, educators must be fully mindful of the extent that the use of spreadsheet or database applications will realize in helping to improve their students’ learning goals.

What is a Spreadsheet?

A spreadsheet is an electronic worksheet that stores data in rows and columns. An individual cell may contain “numerical values, words or character data, and formulas or calculation commands“. (Roblyer, 2010)  Formulas are used to perform instant numerical operations which make it possible for a student to compare data and explore changes with instant visual results.  Charts and graphs can be supplemented to enhance the organization and evaluation of the work.  The educational advantages of spreadsheets include:

  • Ÿ  Performing numerical operations with visual representation for concrete learning
  • Ÿ  Enhancing a student’s projects with graphs, charts, and data display
  • Ÿ  Encouraging higher level thinking and “what if” problem solving by allowing functions to   complete low level arithmetic
  • Ÿ  Helping students track data from assignments/projects
  • Ÿ  Permitting students to keep track of their grades in order to predict outcomes and     encourage goal setting

What is a Database?

Database software allows users to collect and store information, while providing search engines for easy retrieval of information.  According to Thorsen (2009), databases “provide tools for a skilled user to detect patterns among the facts from which they are built“.  Making predictions, revealing relationships, describing the unknown, making comparisons and effectively problem solving, are just a small number of the capabilities databases provide for our students. Databases should be used to:

  • Ÿ  Help students complete research and look for data among many different organizations
  • Ÿ  Learn invaluable lessons in study skills and organization by relating to the way databases handle information
  • Ÿ  Teach students how data can be organized to show relationships to small pieces of information
  • Ÿ  Question students and encourage them to find information to support their position
  • Ÿ  Practice research skills by locating public databases for analysis

When incorporating spreadsheets and databases into our classrooms, we are empowering students to problem solve and use higher level thinking skills to question, analyze, and explore information.  Students gain an opportunity to use real world tools to gather research and information. As a result, learning becomes more concrete and visual which provides the students with a better understanding of new concepts.  Students become more engaged when they actually see the relevance of their learning and are capable of viewing the results from different perspectives. Students are encouraged to work collaboratively and share information.  These advantages, not only foster the learning process for the student, but the effective use of the technology also provides a sense of accomplishment.

For teachers who are new to Excel and database instruction, internet4classroom.com includes helpful tutorials and resources that can be used by the teacher or your students.  Working together with your student, the use of applications can provide a positive learning experience for both of you.

Thorsen, C. (2009). Techtactics: Technology for teachers (3rd ed.). Boston: Pearson.

Roblyer, M.D., & Doering, A. (2010). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc.

How should technology be used?

This question seems to be the topic of constant conversation in my district today. Many teachers are overwhelmed and are too timid to delve head first into new technology. Others are just as motivated for additional access to more advanced technology as the children. The ISTE lists specific standards for achievement by teachers and students. In order for these standards to be met, administrators must provide technical support in the form of proper continuing education, professional development, district operations, and networking.

When all district technology needs are met, teachers must use the technology for every aspect of teaching, the result of which will be enhanced motivation and engagement of the students. Children today are already using computers, mp3p players, cell phones, digital cameras, Internet, etc. Teachers have the ability to extend a student’s personal use of technology for lessons and research. Students should have a safe environment for applying this new knowledge in digital journals and blogs. Students should communicate with other cultures in order to collaborate and interact with a diverse community of student peers. They should have access to a variety of ways to create multimedia presentations, either individually or collaboratively. Students should have access to programs that will guide them to organize and analyze data for all areas of their curriculum. Computer time is necessary to provide students with the time necessary to research in order to plan and compose their projects. Programs must be available for learners to perform drill and practice exercises to succeed with individual goals. Technology specialists should be available for both students and teachers to in order to troubleshoot hardware or software problems. The specialist will guide students and faculty through the technology learning process and teach safe and responsible technology practices when using the Internet.

Learning is greatly enhanced when technology is responsibly placed in the hands of the students and teachers. The Technology Integrating Matrix provides teachers with wonderful ready-to-use examples on methods for successfully using technology.(Technology, 2009) Fear of the unknown, should not keep us from exploring technology. Teachers today are becoming just as energized and engaged as students about the possibilities that lie ahead in the use of technology. Take the risk of embracing technology. The results are endless and will be surprisingly rewarding for all.

What principles should guide your approach for integrating technology into instruction?

After watching a video on the latest addition to the Apple family, The Apple I Pad, my first instinct was to find out how to get my hands on one and allow my students to use it in my classroom. As tempting as it may be, to incorporate all the “cool” new gadgets on the market, research suggests that I incorporate a direct plan of action before introducing any new technology into my curriculum. Effective technology integration is well planned and works collaboratively with today’s educational curriculum and state standards. Technology is not simply adding gadgets, websites, printouts and spreadsheets into a lesson for your students. Successful technology integration goes beyond the concept of being a “tool “when certain principles and guidelines are practiced before instruction takes place. When developing a unit plan using technology, a teacher must map out a Technology Integration Planning (TIP) Model. This model consists of four phases: (Roblyer, 2007)

• Why should I use a technology based method?
• How will I know students have learned?
• What teaching strategies and actions will work best?
• Are essential conditions in place to support technology integration?

It is important for teacher to insure that a technology lesson meets the criteria for all students in order to succeed. According to the Universal Design for Learning (UDL), every classroom consists of learners with different needs and learning barriers. UDL provides teachers with specific guidelines on methods to use in order to reach all learners. Teachers should provide students with various methods of acquiring information and research. Teachers must keep learners motivated and challenged by keeping lessons interesting and attention-grabbing. Teachers should provide diverse models of ways students can demonstrate what they learned. (CAST,2008) The proper instruction provides all students with a successful opportunity to reach curriculum goals and objectives.

Administration support and training, access to technology tools, and proper technology integration steps, provides every student with a motivating, rewarding and successful opportunity for learning. When all these conditions are met appropriately, our students will be adequately equipped with the 21st century skills required for a successful future.

CAST. (2008). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines Version 1.0. Retrieved February 5, 2010, from Universal Design for Learning Center:

Roblyer, M. D. (2010). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (5th Edition). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc. pp. 52-63

Technology, F. C. (2009). The Technology Integration Matrix . Retrieved February 2, 2010, from Florida Center for Instructional Technology: